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Preview: 2011 Honda Odyssey

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•    What is it: The latest version of the best-selling minivan in the U.S.
•    Key facts: Lower roofline but slightly wider; improved seating and fuel-efficiency
•    On sale: Fall 2010
•    Price: est. $27,000 - $43,000

Honda has given an up-close look and video walk-around of its new 2011 Odyssey minivan, which had already made its debut at the Chicago Auto Show this past February.

While there weren't many surprises, and the presentation was devoid of mechanical details, Honda did release a bunch more pictures of the Odyssey (above) and go into greater detail about seating and interior appointments.

The chief engineer of the 2011 Honda Odyssey, Art St. Cyr, said that the objective in remaking Honda's best-selling minivan was to "make the Odyssey more intuitive, more functional and more comfortable, wrapping the entire package in a stylish and distinctive deisign" that will appeal to Generation Y as well as the original target Baby Boomers.

While the "more modern styling," as Honda put it, is a bit controversial—especially the "lightning bolt" hump along the rear window and the rather odd curvature of the rear fender—there's no denying the automaker has come up with a better way to manage space.

Front-seat occupants get a new lumbar adjustment, at least in top-of-the-line Elite trims, and more padding has been added to the door lining and armrests. More exterior width translates directly to interior width, with almost an inch more of shoulder room. To accommodate the myriad of small electronic items that a family is bound to have, Honda has added a Media Tray that's designed to hold cellphones and media players. Power outlets have been moved next to the compartment.

Instead of a fold-down tray between the front seats, the 2011 Odyssey gets a larger center console that's actually removable when you need to carry large cargo items. Honda has also added a new cooler box, and the Odyssey's 15 cupholders can accommodate anything from a Red Bull can to a Big Gulp.

In the second row, the center seat has been made wider, while the primary configuration remains two captain's chairs. Both outboard seats move, so that child seats can now be fitted into any of the three positions.

Access to the third row has been improved with a tip-forward function at the second row, and improvements have been made in the rearmost row to help accommodate adults. Honda says there's more legroom in the third row, and three adults can now fit comfortably. And that odd window line does help improve outward visibility for third-row passengers, Honda says.

Third-row seats can still be folded flat into the floor (with a one-touch stow function for the third row), and with the second and third rows down 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood can fit. Several smaller cargo cubbies have been added for first-aid kits, emergency kits, and such.

A new 16.2-inch wide-screen system provides entertainment and can even split the screen in half for two separate inputs. Back in the third row there are HDMI and RCA jacks, along with a 150-watt power outlet.

The powertrain in the 2011 Honda Odyssey has been upgraded with three-mode Variable Cylinder Management—for better fuel economy of up to 19 mpg city, 28 highway.

Check out the additional interior shots below. And stay tuned for more information, as we hope to get some time inside the Odyssey, as well as behind the wheel, in the near future.

 
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